Schumann, Tchaikovsky

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schumann,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Piano Concerto; Piano Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Daniel Barenboim (piano); Munich PO/Sergiu Celibidache
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57417 2
The collaboration of Daniel Barenboim and Sergiu Celibidache proves to be a mutually beneficial partnership. Celibidache never entirely abandons his tendency toward protracted explorations of sensually groomed orchestral textures, but here enriches it by adopting a surging vitality missing from much of his work elsewhere. Barenboim, who clearly adores playing for Celibidache, supplies a particularly ardent brand of his questing, sometimes brusque spontaneity. Apart from a sense of urgently communicative music-making, this rendition of the Schumann Concerto is notable for the finale, which strikes a fine balance between drive and expressively detailed figuration. Barenboim does not dazzle the listener with technical brilliance in the Tchaikovsky, but displays plenty of temperament and insight, and his use of silence to create a sense of hesitant inwardness in the first-movement cadenza is memorable.

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Recording quality slightly compromises these live 1991 performances, particularly the Schumann, where the piano has a tinny sound and is overly recessed into the orchestral fabric. Minor performance mishaps and ensemble lapses notwithstanding, this is an uncommonly stimulating disc that admirers of both protagonists will enjoy immensely.

Paolo Giacometti and Michel Tilkin offer fine performances of the Schumann and Dvorák concertos. Giacometti’s playing boasts youthful vitality and drive, and he favours clean, sometimes overly pointed articulation. While the outer movements of the Schumann are exciting, the Intermezzo lacks the delicate poeticising that characterises Perahia’s fine version.

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In the Dvorák Concerto, Giacometti’s chief competition (since he uses the original 1876 version of the solo part) is the recording by Sviatoslav Richter and Carlos Kleiber, which yields to the newcomer in immediacy but creates an Olympian nostalgia that ultimately cuts deeper. Only in the second movement of the Dvorák – in some tentative wind solos and a stubbornly out-of-tune last (high) violin note – does the Arnhem Philharmonic seem anything less than first-rate. David Breckbill